Regret, remorse and infidelity: Advertisers make marriage seem like purgatory.
October 17, 2011
“I should have married John Clarke.”
The other night I see these two commercials, one after the other, for State Farm and AT&T. They are both slice-of-life commercials featuring a husband and wife in conflict. On that score, they are not unlike thousands of other TV commercials. Yet, these two spots bring with them a disturbing element. In the AT&T commercial (above) the wife ridicules her husband, questioning why she ever married him. Upon doing so, she turns away from him, disgusted. In the other (below) the wife “catches” her husband on the phone late at night and immediately suspects he’s talking to another woman. She does not believe him when he tells her it’s their insurance agent. She grabs the phone to hear for herself. Even then, she’s not satisfied.
“She sounds hideous!”
If comedy was the goal, neither commercial achieved it. Instead, I found both spots painful to watch; not for the usual reasons but because of their complete lack of faith in marriage and even contempt of it. I’m no “lovey-dovey.” Though I’ve been married a long time I fully realize marriage is a commitment involving much compromise from both parties and fraught with its share of disappointments. But these commercials made it look like purgatory. If slice-of-married-life is what they were portraying then married life is not worth living.
I don’t think I’m being overly dramatic. If either situation occurred during my marriage, both of us would be devastated. If my wife seriously tells me she wishes she had married her old boyfriend (instead of me), as the lady does in the AT&T commercial, we are in a bad place and one that will likely require therapy or a divorce lawyer. In the commercial she’s not joshing with her husband; she’s fed up and full of remorse. Her regret is palpable. As is the husbands pained reaction. It’s super sad.
Intended as farce, the other spot is just as painful (full of pain). The wife is dead certain her husband is having an illicit conversation with another woman. Irate, she gives the man no quarter, not even when the truth is revealed. “She sounds hideous!” she says to her husband. It’s all so ugly.
True story: A long time ago my household received a series of crank calls from an unidentified woman. The person was drunk, high and obscene. Every second my wife contemplated I might know this woman was excruciating, for both of us. Later, when the sad truth came out about this tortured soul making crank calls, it was like a great weight lifted from our backs and hearts. But damage was done. To this day, the memory of it makes me shudder.
If you say to me these things happen all the time then you are either a) not married, or b) in a very bad marriage. Regardless, this is nothing to make a commercial about; unless, I suppose, you are a divorce lawyer or a marriage counselor.
In the past I’ve railed against the “nagging wife” and “idiot husband” stereotyped in TV commercials. This new, darker turn makes those goofy characters seem like the good old days.